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Praise for Thiago

Gala against Arsenal was ‘only the start’

The final whistle was already a fading memory, but Thomas Müller’s work for the evening was far from over. It had been an exceptional performance, but the rules are the rules, and Müller was selected for the random doping control. The additional shift finally finished shortly before midnight, but even then the player was not free to go: the sports media were camped out in the Mixed Zone, eagerly awaiting Thomas’s commentary on Bayern’s hugely impressive 5-1 victory over Arsenal, the side lying second in the English Premier League. The Gunners took the points off the Reds in London two weeks ago but were simply brushed aside at the Allianz Arena.

“We’ve taken a massive step,” Müller stated, “the situation before the match was a lot less comfortable than it is now.” That is true, because FCB are now odds-on to seal a berth in the last sixteen of the Champions League. A home win on Matchday 5 against Olympiacos, who are joint top of Group F with Bayern on nine points, would see the Bavarians through as group winners. “It’s all in our own hands,” noted Manuel Neuer.

A home defeat to Arsenal would have made the group situation very complex indeed, but there was never even the remotest possibility of that outcome on Wednesday. Pep Guardiola’s men dominated possession from the off as always, but in contrast to the reverse fixture, they showed a ruthless streak in front of goal too. Robert Lewandowski (10) led the way, with Müller (29, 89), David Alaba (44) and sub Arjen Robben (55) doing the rest. Olivier Giroud’s 69th minute strike for Arsenal was expertly taken but ultimately only a scant consolation.

Praise for Thiago

“We wanted to put on a good show for our fans,” commented Müller, and especially in the first half it had been “very good. But in the second half we were forced to chase back a couple of times too often. We gave away possession very cheaply.” Coach Guardiola agreed, saying he was very pleased but also identifying areas for improvement despite the big win. “We let them get at us on the break too often,” said the Spaniard in the aftermath of Bayern’s eighth straight home win in Europe’s elite club competition.

Matthias Sammer also moved to dampen any rising euphoria. “Why should we be searching for superlatives today? That’s not appropriate! We’re still at the start of a 10,000 metre race,” the sporting director declared. Nevertheless, it is right to revel in great Champions League evenings like Wednesday’s. “We’re all delighted,” revealed Alaba, who brought the Allianz Arena crowd to its feet with his stunning strike to make the score 3-0 at the break.

Apart from Alaba the standout performers were two-goal Müller, who has now overtaken Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in the club ranking for scorers in European competition, and supremely versatile midfielder Thiago. “He has the character for the big games. That’s when he’s at his best,” enthused Guardiola, after the gifted Spaniard added yet another dimension to FCB’s midfield play with a string of inspired moments.

Arsenal, who still have only three pints from four group fixtures, were effectively reduced to the role of spectators. “We were under a little bit of pressure after the first game, but the team has reacted really well,” observed Sammer, before looking ahead to the remaining Group F fixtures against the men from Piraeus and Zagreb: “We want to win both matches. That’s the task we’ll set ourselves.”